An automated version of the operation span task

School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0170, USA.
Behavior Research Methods (Impact Factor: 2.12). 09/2005; 37(3):498-505. DOI: 10.3758/BF03192720
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We present an easy-to-administer and automated version of a popular working memory (WM) capacity task (operation span; Ospan) that is mouse driven, scores itself, and requires little intervention on the part of the experimenter. It is shown that this version of Ospan correlates well with other measures of WM capacity and has both good internal consistency (alpha = .78) and test-retest reliability (.83). In addition, the automated version of Ospan (Aospan) was shown to load on the same factor as two other WM measures. This WM capacity factor correlated with a factor composed of fluid abilities measures. The utility of the Aospan was further demonstrated by analyzing response times (RTs) that indicated that RT measures obtained in the task accounted for additional variance in predicting fluid abilities. Our results suggest that Aospan is a reliable and valid indicator of WM capacity that can be applied to a wide array of research domains.

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Available from: Richard Philip Heitz, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "Automated O-span task (OS) (adapted into Swedish from Unsworth, et al., 2005 "
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    ABSTRACT: Extractions from relative clauses, a type of long-distance filler-gap dependency (FGD), typically yield unacceptable sentences across the majority of languages. Noun phrases involving relative clauses are therefore assumed to universally comprise syntactic “islands” for extraction (Ross 1967). The fact that extractions from relative clauses (RCEs) (1) are judged as acceptable in Swedish (Erteschik-Shir 1973, Engdahl & Ejerhed 1982) is thus unexpected. None of the theoretical accounts have proven satisfactory. Furthermore, no online, processing-based studies have investigated these structures. Our study uses an eyetracking while reading paradigm to determine (i) whether RCEs elicit similar processing costs as extractions from non-restrictive relative clauses (nRCE) (2), which show island-like behavior in Swedish (Engdahl, 1997), or if they pattern closer to nonproblematic FGD sentences in which an extraction has been made from a that-clause (TCE) (3), and (ii) whether non-structural factors (frequency, pragmatic fit, and working memory) contribute to any pattern of effects, as facilitatory effects would serve as a positive heuristic for the non-island status of Swedish RCEs (Sprouse, Wagers, & Phillips, 2012; Traxler & Pickering 1996). An intransitive control condition involving pseudo-coordination within a relative clause (4) was also included. (1) Såna där gamla skottkärror såg jag en man som alltid tvättade på macken när... such there old wheelbarrows saw I a man that always washed at gas-station-the when... (2) Såna där gamla skottkärror såg jag en man som förresten tvättade på macken när … such there old wheelbarrows saw I a man that by-the-way washed at gas-station-the when… (3) Såna där gamla skottkärror såg jag att en man alltid tvättade på macken när... such there old wheel barrows saw I that a man always washed at gas-station-the when... (4) Såna där gamla skottkärror såg jag en man som alltid stod och tvättade på macken… such there old wheelbarrows saw I a man that always stood and washed at gas-station-the... For our experiment, we tested 80 critical items, each with four structural variants (1-4) rotated across four presentation lists. Sixty fillers were also included. Forty-five participants each read one list and then completed two working memory span (WM) tests. We used linear mixed models to analyze first fixation durations, gaze durations, regression path durations, and total dwell times for two regions (embedded verb: tvättade; PP: på macken). To assess the contribution of non-linguistic factors, two measures of WM, Ospan (OS) and Dspan (DS); the pragmatic fit (Prag) of the filler to the embedded verb; and the frequency by which the embedded verb is followed by the filler NP were included as predictors. The primary finding at the embedded verb was that RCE and TCE patterned faster than nRCE in both early measures and in regression path durations, with RCE’s facilitation often being enhanced by or conditional upon increases in OS and Prag. This suggests that RCE is processed more similarly to TCE than to nRCE when verb/object integration first occurs, as a function of non-structural factors. Total Durations at the verb region exhibited a three-way distinction, in which RCE patterned between nRCE and TCE (which showed the greatest facilitation), signaling that integrative processes may be somewhat more difficult for RCE than TCE over time, but are still easier for RCE than for nRCE. At the PP region, both RCE and TCE patterned together faster than nRCE, though for RCE this facilitation was again often dependent on non-structural factors, emerging (for Total Durations) and becoming stronger (Gaze Durations) only at higher values of Prag and Ospan. Our findings provide evidence that RCEs are easier to process than nRCEs, and that this facilitation is dependent in part on high values of certain non-structural factors, such as working memory span and the pragmatic fit of the filler to the selecting verb. Our study thus provides novel processing evidence that Swedish RCEs are more appropriately categorized as long-distance FGDs and not as syntactic islands.
    Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), University of Malta, Valetta; 09/2015
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    • "Participants were instructed after the first final memory test that another one will be given after 1 week, and that they should not practice the learning material during the retention interval. To ensure the comparability between groups of recall type, working-memory capacity was assessed by the automated operation-span task (Unsworth, Heitz, Schrock & Engle, 2005) after the short retention interval, and the automated symmetry-span task (Unsworth et al., 2005) after the long retention interval. "
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    ABSTRACT: Testing one's memory of previously studied information reduces the rate of forgetting, compared to restudy. However, little is known about how this direct testing effect applies to action phrases (e.g., "wash the car") - a learning material relevant to everyday memory. As action phrases consist of two different components, a verb (e.g., "wash") and a noun (e.g., "car"), testing can either be implemented as noun-cued recall of verbs or verb-cued recall of nouns, which may differently affect later memory performance. In the present study, we investigated the effect of testing for these two recall types, using verbally encoded action phrases as learning materials. Results showed that repeated study-test practice, compared to repeated study-restudy practice, decreased the forgetting rate across 1 week to a similar degree for both noun-cued and verb-cued recall types. However, noun-cued recall of verbs initiated more new subsequent learning during the first restudy, compared to verb-cued recall of nouns. The study provides evidence that testing has benefits on both subsequent restudy and long-term retention of action-relevant materials, but that these benefits are differently expressed with testing via noun-cued versus verb-cued recall. © 2015 Scandinavian Psychological Associations and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 08/2015; 56(5). DOI:10.1111/sjop.12238 · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    • "The basic framework was a complex span task (as described in [14]). A speaker was required to remember a sequence of letters (verbal load) or spatial locations (spatial load) while reading one of the stimulus sentences from a computer monitor. "
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    ABSTRACT: The goal of the present study was to test the effects of working memory on speech production. Twenty American-English speaking adults produced syntactically complex sentences in tasks that taxed either verbal or spatial working memory. Sentences spoken under load were produced with more errors, fewer prosodic breaks, and at faster rates than sentence produced in the control conditions, but other acoustic correlates of rhythm and intonation did not change. Verbal and spatial working memory had very similar effects on production, suggesting that the different span tasks used to tax working memory merely shifted speakers' attention away from the act of speaking. This finding runs contra the hypothesis of incremental phonological/phonetic encoding, which predicts the manipulation of information in verbal working memory during speech production.
    Proceedings from the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, (ICPhS-15, Glasgow); 08/2015
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